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Chapter 1
me and friends
robot_things
Chapter 1

*The Party With Really Fantastic People Aplenty*


One morning a year and a few months ago, in a three wall apartment devoid of decorations, furniture or charm, quietly slept a man. He had reasons to be tired. Since he had left university a little over two years prior, he had been busy looking for himself. If you’ve ever tried you will know that this is hard work. For some (possibly obvious) reasons this seemed to mean going to bed very late most every night, which got him tired in the morning (whatever morning was). But on that one occasion, a year and a few months ago, for the first time in a very long while, Clifford woke up paying attention. There was no transition between sleep and consciousness on that day, no sleepy blurred mind. On that day, Clifford woke listening.

You see, there was an electronic voice.

It had been singing to him (for some while probably) a ditty about a party, somewhere, to which he was invited. The voice came from an electric flyer that had been seated on the third pillow, (not the one supporting his head and not the one between his knees, the one you fall asleep hugging and wake up no longer hugging. Sorry, third pillow). Questions like “What is an electric flyer?” or “What is one doing on the third pillow?” did not clutter Clifford’s thoughts, he was too busy listening: something about a party.
Hand-picked guests (then why him?)
70th floor of the Pan Am building (where the plane incident of 1973 had occurred).
Come alone.
Free drinks.
Free food.
The whole nine yards.

Eventually Clifford did ask himself all the usual weird-party-invite-related questions, even some more out of the way ones. He did hesitate, sometimes nervously play with his fingers as he thought about the whole thing, turn it around every which way in his head. But when the time came and nothing good was on, he found himself standing right there, in the lobby of the Pan Am building, waiting for the elevator door to say “Ding” and let him in, on his way to the mysterious floor 70.

He had walked into the Pan Am building and a man whom he did not recognize, wearing a silver tuxedo (it was awesome), had called him Mr. Kobin and taken his coat. He’d then proceeded to moonwalk back to the coat-check counter where the coat was handed to a girl Clifford would later learn was named Sally. The man did all this never taking his eyes off Clifford, maintaining a pleasant smile on his face through out, being as welcoming and courteous as is humanly possible. When he was done with the coat, he motioned for the elevator. “70th floor”, he said, stretching his r a little, giving it class.

There was a ding. The elevator doors slid open. He walked in.

For a short while he was alone in the world, in this bossanova-soundtracked micro universe, staring at the wall of numbers to the right of the golden doors which just moments ago had let him in without much more than a hint of what sound is. The funny thing is that the 70th floor turned out to really be the 76th, seeing as there were three 56th, two 33rd, and four 16th floors, which you couldn’t miss it if - like Clifford - you liked to follow the dot of light as it rose steadily from number to number, from floor to floor, letting you know you’re getting there.
Eventually he did. 70 lit up to it’s full glowing golden orange capacity and the metal doors gave way to the grandest party this side of history (maybe – anyway it was loud.) Clifford walked in, through a wall of ever morphing light, into the pounding orgiastic beat of some strange groovy techno shit, and took a moment, letting it seep in slowly. First and foremost was the lighting, a system of flickering lights and flashes so complex, so intricate, no wall, thing or person stayed the same colour longer than a second or three. A bright yellow would fade into a dark blue in a beautiful and brief gradient slip and you would only notice in time to see it turn a different shade again, always as stunning as the last.

When his legs allowed it Clifford started walking again. After passing through crowds of strictly sensational people all chatting amongst each other and having a possibly record-shattering amount of good time, he got to the dance floor. Twenty square meters, lit from below, from under a floor made of glass. Not lit from directly under either, Clifford realized as he walked closer. This here was a hole of light that dug who knew how deep into the building’s depth, as if it was hollow for the five or ten floors beneath them, filled only with light. A light so bright in fact that from away Clifford could only see the people moving on the edge of the dance floor, everyone closer to the middle drowned in bright white. He walked in, impressed and entranced, and started dancing.

Clifford was a pretty okay dancer, he knew enough to let the beats lead and to just follow, but this music… it was unlike anything he had heard before. Sounds kept coming at him from different sides, sounds he’d never heard, beats that helped you dance, that lifted you up and dropped you back down. Beautiful melodies and transient pulses all tangled up together, achieving a musical wall of sound, a melodic, rhythmic, sonic truth. It was okay to completely let go here. To be a puppet in the capable grip of this awesome music.
The man watching Cliff had heard it all before, though. Twice this week, in fact.

About this man: he was not aware of any name ever being given to him, nor of having any family (or much of a known past for that matter), and right now there was no way he could care. Nope, the impending doom of the universe and all things that exist in it preoccupied him much more. That and Clifford. Clifford the key player. He would wait before speaking to him, let the young man look around and start loving this here and now, first. Have a good time. He would rather let Clifford come up to him than the other way around. The way to do that, stand right next to the entrance of the cockpit and wait for Clifford to notice / inquire about it. He hadn’t seen it yet. It was the unknown man’s second favourite part of the loft they had picked for the party, the two other places they had given away this week had nothing nearly as cool. How it happened, in ‘73 a small Pan Am jet-plane had mysteriously crashed right through this floor. Later reports had blamed a computer malfunction in the plane’s cockpit and bad weather, the fog that night thicker than mud. The wings of the plane had broken off on the west wall and the body of the plane had progressively expired going right through the building, ruining three entire floors including a perfectly luxurious auditorium. The cockpit, however, was sent crashing across the width of the building and had stopped midway through the windows on the east side, barely damaged. It had just stayed there, stuck into the building’s web of concrete and metal. With the help of some slight modifications on the building’s surface, it was still sticking out today, a sort of trophy, a testament to the building’s strength and resilience. That cockpit was awesome and offered an amazing view of the city. That is where they would have the talk.

It took three hours before Clifford reappeared from out of the light of the dance floor. A few seconds went slowly by, him standing all alone in the middle of a crowed of awesome people all moving and swarming about and constantly changing colour, and he remembered he was thirsty. That was why he had stopped dancing, he needed a drink. He looked around a bit, trying to peer through the crowd for the refreshment bar, and understood that it did no good, you can’t see through people. Not on the street, not while waiting in line, not in a bar and certainly not here. People are visible and that’s that. He waited to see were the people with drinks were coming from, but it turns out a lot of people with drinks were going towards where a lot of people with drinks had just left, and these people with drinks were going somewhere accompanied by people who had no drinks but looked drunk. It was hard to draw any conclusion other than that he should make his way through the crowd, towards something, anything.

Eventually the bar came to him, in the shape of a charming girl named Suzy. She had the bar strapped around her and thus looked like she was standing in the hole of a big, flat donut. A donut you could use to serve drinks on, so, you know, a pretty terrific donut. On the bar/donut she had glasses, napkins, lemons and salt. The bottles themselves were safely kept in the pockets of a big waist belt she wore between herself and the donut/bar. The pleasantness in Suzy came in part from the fact that she knew your poison. She would just talk to you and fix your drink before you even knew remotely what you felt like having. And there it was. The drink which, at this point and time in your life, would go down best. There was a small exchange between them having to do with how great pretty much everything was right now, after which Clifford walked away, positive, confident, comfortably inebriated.

The feeling remained for a long while. Things were good. Clifford hadn’t felt this perfectly content since longer than he could remember. There had been girls not calling him back. There had been jobs that made him feel he could step to the side and society would just keep going without him until it disappeared behind the horizon, leaving him standing alone, maybe waving for it to come back, maybe not. There had been, also, an endless parade of attempts to make himself new (that resulted, after a while, in him being him, not new or old or different or better or less), and there had been bad luck, more than you can imagine. Seriously. Bad luck in the form of explosions, cars hitting him, getting stuck in an elevator people were using guns in, buildings being detonated while he was still in them, a meteor shower, once, and the list went. But all that was behind him tonight. How could anything go wrong in such a party? There was nothing to fear, nothing to look at with suspicious eyes and worry about. Only things to look at. Hell, there was even a – was that the entrance to a plane’s cockpit, there on the wall next to that guy staring at him?

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